Friday, October 22, 2010

Report: Economic school diversity works

The Public School Forum of North Carolina took note of a new report by the Century Foundation that gives thumbs up to economic school integration, the kind of plan that Wake County used until a new school board threw it out this year making some residents furious.
Here's some of what the Public School Forum had to say:
Last week the Century Foundation released a new report, “Housing Policy is School Policy”, which studied the benefits economic integration has had on low-income students in Montgomery County, Maryland. The study examines Montgomery County, Maryland, an affluent suburban county adjacent to Washington, D.C. In 1976, the county passed an inclusionary zoning law requiring new housing developments to include homes affordable for moderate means (subsidized homes) and to set aside one-third for the local public housing authority.
The study, by Century Foundation, examines seven years (2001-07) worth of longitudinal data for 850 Montgomery County students who live in the “set-aside public housing”. The report found that in math especially, low-income students attending more affluent schools performed well enough to narrow achievement gaps significantly. Achievement gaps in reading were narrowed as well, just not to same extent.
Similar in size to Wake County, Montgomery County (roughly 144,000 students) has been divided into high-performing, more affluent green zone and high-needs red zones. Even with red zones schools receiving nearly $2,000 more in per pupil spending than green zone schools, the low-income students in the Century study performed better in the green-zone schools.
Researchers see the results as especially significant as Montgomery, one of the nation’s largest schools districts has been uncommonly aggressive in seeking to improve the performance of students in schools with higher poverty. While most districts throughout the country now assign students to schools based only on where they live, a growing number of school districts (roughly 60) have in recent years been experimenting with strategies to promote economic diversity.